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The ultimate way to season cast iron, per Cook's Illustrated

Wow, my email inbox sure lit up. @danielaaronsprague, I'm glad you found the information useful.

Well, 7 months later, I have a stack of 4 10" skillets, 1 Dutch oven, 2 griddles, all well seasoned. We use the two burner griddle to cook English muffins. And I use the 10.5" griddle for tortillas. I cook eggs in the skillets now and then.

I'm using stainless steel more often now. Watching the video of the water dancing on the hot surface clued me in. Thanks, @sawdin. And I can afford better, thicker stainless steel cookware.

I've learned that preheating is important. I often put the skillet on a very low flame for 10-15 minutes. And I use the infrared thermometer all the time. The center of the skillet will reach cooking temperature but it takes a while for the heat to spread out to the sides. And its the sides that stick, because they're too cool. I have learned to preheat the griddle to about 420 F and corn tortillas will skitter around it on a layer of steam.

I don't think I'll do the flaxseed treatment again, but would try something like the CowboyAdree treatment.

I still use the nonstick skillet for crepes. I don't cook them often enough to make them work on the griddle.

Nov 04, 2011
alko in Cookware

The ultimate way to season cast iron, per Cook's Illustrated

For an ounce of prevention, an infrared thermometer can be used to check the pan temperature quickly and easily.

Feb 19, 2011
alko in Cookware

The ultimate way to season cast iron, per Cook's Illustrated

I will trade you my newly beloved Wagner Ware skillet for yours that failed. :)

Feb 17, 2011
alko in Cookware

The ultimate way to season cast iron, per Cook's Illustrated

Mine did the same when I seasoned it at maximum oven temperature. I stripped the seasoning with Easy Off and reapplied. But used a lower temperature of 450 F, based on "or as high as your oven goes – mine only goes to 450°F" from Sheryl Canter's blog. I also used a lower oven setting of 420 F since my oven is actually a bit hotter than the temperature setting. I've been using the Wagner Ware skillet since Feb 6 and the seasoning is holding up fine so far. Yesterday, I cooked an omelette with about a teaspoon of canola oil coating the skillet and it did not stick.

Feb 17, 2011
alko in Cookware

The ultimate way to season cast iron, per Cook's Illustrated

I made some scrambled eggs in the Wagner this morning. I heated the skillet to about 300 F, spread a couple teaspoons of canola oil, and added a couple beaten eggs. I let one side get a bit too cool and it stuck a bit. But oil and Kosher salt cleaned it up. (Pictures below) This evening, I baked some cornbread in the skillet. I put about 1 tablespoon of canola oil in the skillet during a 425 F oven preheat. The cornbread slipped right out. (Picture below)

Success at last. With the flaxseed oil seasoning, the maximum oven temperature may be too high. Use something like 450 F or 500 F. With the higher temperature, the seasoning worked okay initially but would fail, especially when cleaning the skillet with water. I also noticed seasoning had flaked off after taking cornbread out.

Does bacon fat or lard work as well or better? The Cook's Illustrated article only compared flaxseed and vegetable oil. They found that the flaxseed oil survived a trip through the dishwasher but the vegetable oil did not. I don't think I'm up to repeat the comparison for flaxseed and pork fat.

I would like to say thanks for the encouragement and helpful information from the folks on this forum.

Feb 08, 2011
alko in Cookware

The ultimate way to season cast iron, per Cook's Illustrated

I gave some tortillas a try in the Wagner skillet, after the cleanup from browning stew meat.

I heated the skillet to about 380 F and gave it a lot of time to distribute the heat out to the edges. I tried the first one with the edge reading about 220 F. It sticks and I give about 30 seconds and loosen it with a metal spatula. It gets a bit dried out and won't puff any. I add a few drops of canola and spread it around with a paper towel and wipe it as dry as I can. After adding a little more heat (gas stove), the skillet is up to about 405 F. I lay down the second tortilla and after about 10 seconds, give the skillet a shake and it comes loose and swirls. A flip after about 30 s, and again after another 30 s, then press with a paper towel and it puffs up a bit. The remaining 6 tortillas cook up like the second one.

After cooking the tortillas the skillet looks a bit dry. When it cools to about 150 F, I add oil and Kosher salt and rub it with a paper towel. Before and after photos below.

Feb 07, 2011
alko in Cookware

The ultimate way to season cast iron, per Cook's Illustrated

Yesterday I finished reapplying the flaxseed oil seasoning to the two skillets mentioned in my earlier post. This time I used an oven temperature of 450 F as measured by the infrared thermometer, since the temperature setting on the Jenn Air oven is off by about 30 degrees.

When stripping the skillet, the seasoning applied earlier using the maximum oven temperature (550 F) came off easily with 1 application of Easy Off. The center section of the one skillet where I applied the flaxseed oil on the stove top at about 410 F took 3 applications of Easy Off to remove.

This morning, I used the re-seasoned Wagner to brown 3 pounds of beef stew meat for a green chile stew. I heated the skillet to about 270 F, added a couple teaspoons of canola oil and browned the pieces about 6 or 8 at a time. When I first put them in the skillet, they would stick. So I waited long enough for them to get brown. Some of them would then break loose if I shook the skillet. The others would come loose with the spatula. Quite a bit of fond built up in the skillet but the stew meat would still break loose. I made use of the infrared thermometer to keep the skillet in the 250 to 350 F temperature range.

After finishing the meat, I let the skillet cool down to about 200 F and added about a half cup of water to deglaze. Heating the skillet helped loosen the fond. After deglazing, I added a couple tablespoons of canola oil and Kosher salt and scrubbed it lightly with a paper towel. Then finished cleaning it by just wiping with a paper towel. The seasoning stayed on this time and the skillet looks pretty much like it did before I started cooking with it.

Feb 06, 2011
alko in Cookware

The ultimate way to season cast iron, per Cook's Illustrated

Thanks for posting the video link. I watched and then went to try out the 1/8 teaspoon of water in a stainless steel pan. It was very surprising what happens when the pan temperature gets above 212 F. I also shut off the heat with a big drop of water in the pan to watch what happens when the pan temperature drops below 212 F.

Feb 06, 2011
alko in Cookware

The ultimate way to season cast iron, per Cook's Illustrated

I worked with the skillet a bit, fried a scrambled egg in a little butter, then a half pound of bacon, followed by an omelet, then sauteed some bell pepper and made a couple more omelets. I've been able to clean the skillet with a paper towel without losing any seasoning. Also cleaned it in cold water with a plastic scrubby.

I think the technique works but at at a lower temperature than the maximum on my oven. I have decided to strip the two skillets and start over with 420 F oven temperature.

Feb 03, 2011
alko in Cookware

The ultimate way to season cast iron, per Cook's Illustrated

I'm working on 2 used skillets. First one is a generic cast iron skillet (Made in USA) from around 1974. Second one is a Wagner Ware 1058X. So I can't do a new-old compare.

Can you tell about what you've done with your skillet since seasoning it?

My goals are scrambled eggs, cornbread and corn tortillas. I'm willing to work through bacon if necessary. ;)

Feb 01, 2011
alko in Cookware

The ultimate way to season cast iron, per Cook's Illustrated

Yes, I followed the CI instructions - 200 F for 15 minutes, apply the flaxseed oil, wipe it dry with a paper towel, 1 hour upside down at maximum heat followed by 2 more hours in an unopened oven.

I saw a few other postings reporting a similar problem and it certainly helps to know that it does work for most.

I think the problem may be too much heat. I tried heating some flaxseed oil in the skillet on the stove top and it smokes at about 400 F according to the handy infrared thermometer. The maximum setting on the Jenn Air oven is 550 F and it runs about 30 F hot, so it's probably 570-580 F. Sheryl Canter's instructions say "Turn the oven to a baking temperature of 500°F (or as high as your oven goes – mine only goes to 450°F)"

I put a thicker coat on last night and baked it at 375 F for an hour, followed by a 2 hour cool down. I was able to cook an omelet without any sticking this morning. I'll work with the skillet for a few days to see how it goes. It that goes okay, I will strip it and re-season at a lower temperature.

Feb 01, 2011
alko in Cookware

The ultimate way to season cast iron, per Cook's Illustrated

I started with Carbona oven cleaner ( < 5% anionic surfactants) but, after using up a 12 oz bottle, switched to Easy Off. Easy Off contains lye (sodium hydroxide).After applying Easy Off and waiting, I wiped out all I could with paper towels, After several Easy Off treatments most of the build-up was gone and I washed it in warm water. After drying it, I went over the inside with fine emery cloth.Then washed it with soapy water, rinsed it thoroughly and dried.

Jan 31, 2011
alko in Cookware

The ultimate way to season cast iron, per Cook's Illustrated

So far, I have made 4 attempts with 2 different skillets and 2 different brands of flaxseed oil. I have reread the instructions many times now. But I am not getting the results reported in CI.

After seasoning, I cook something in the skillet. It sticks. I clean it with oil and Kosher salt. But elbow grease won't clean it up. I add some water to the pan and warm it up. The seasoning comes off with gentle scrubbing with a paper towel.

So, I don't know what to try next.

Jan 30, 2011
alko in Cookware

The ultimate way to season cast iron, per Cook's Illustrated

Yes, I notice a slight hint of flaxseed oil smell when heating the pan. But I don't detect any in the food.

I have also cleaned up a Wagner Ware 1058 skillet and have 4 coats on it so far.

Jan 23, 2011
alko in Cookware

The ultimate way to season cast iron, per Cook's Illustrated

The CI article says:
4. Repeat the process five more times, or until the pan develops a dark, semi-matte surface.

I have a 10" cast iron skillet with messed up seasoning from too thick a coat of vegetable oil. After reading the CI article, I decided to try stripping it and re-seasoning it following the CI article. I used oven cleaner. scrubbing and fine emery cloth to remove the old seasoning.

I did the six coats of flaxseed oil. I found some flaxseed oil at Whole Foods, about $8 for 8 ounces. The seasoning initially had many small blotches (1/16 to 1/8 inch) but gradually filled in with more coats.

The first thing I cooked in the newly seasoned skillet was English muffins, using the recipe on Sheryl Canter's web site. After cooking at about 310 F for about 15 minutes with no oil, the muffins popped right up when lifted with a spatula. Next, I tried a couple omelettes, using about 1/2 teaspoon of butter. They folded very nicely and slid right out of the pan. I cleaned the skillet with water and a plastic scrubbing pad.

The third thing was corn tortillas, with a dry skillet. The tortillas did not stick, even when I had just put one in the skillet. A little shake of the skillet (using a hot pad of course) would sent the tortilla sliding around.

Next we cooked 6 eggs scrambled, using about a teaspoon of butter. But the eggs stuck. I used hot water and the plastic scrubbing pad to clean the skillet. But when I dried the skillet, the seasoning was mostly gone.

So I'm repeating the seasoning process and have 4 more coats to go.

Jan 20, 2011
alko in Cookware